Friends Before Phones: Phone Addiction is Wrecking Our Social Lives

27 Jun Friends Before Phones: Phone Addiction is Wrecking Our Social Lives

You go to meet a friend, wait a bit…They finally arrive but seem somewhat preoccupied.

Their phone is out. You’re talking to them but they don’t really respond. They don’t say anything because their head is in a screen.

“What’s going on?” You interject. For some strange reason, you’re the one who feels rude.

A moment of attention. “Sorry, stuff going on at work.” Head down. Entire email chains reviewed, thoughts about responses. Sentences written. Why did they agree to meet?

And all the while you’re just sitting there wondering: ‘Are we in the same room?

Phone addiction = attention spent on things not present

It’s all too familiar. A busy, flustered friend arrives with their head still in their work, and their work appears to be located on their phone.

It’s not just friends either – parents are at it too. A family dinner might be organised only for it to turn out to be not really family time at all;  phones are out, parents are glued to them, anxious about email responses that probably mean nothing at all. 

It’s all too easy to get hooked into. Because of the nature of unrestricted, unending information flow, people can leave work at the end of the day physically tired, but still with their head in overdrive. It’s not just work either – we can all get anxious from an unanswered pile-up of social media notifications, or whether or not our latest profile picture got enough likes. 

It’s a strange, infuriating feature of modern relationships. Phone addiction means people are beginning to prioritise what is happening on their phone vs. their real life experiences. They might say that they are ‘too busy to meet’, but then agree to meeting up but still appear ‘too busy’ when they’re actually there – glued to their phone, lost in their phone addiction, with their attention elsewhere.

I don’t have time vs. it’s not a priority

There’s an interesting Ted Talk where speaker Laura Vanderjam talks about problems with modern time management. Under particular examination was the notion of ‘I don’t have time’ – one of the most common expressions we now use.

The point she made is that people actually do have time for lots of things, but they have limited priorities. For instance, your boiler explodes and sets your kitchen on fire – you’re probably ‘going to have time’ to sort it out, because not doing so would actually be detrimental to your quality of life. You make it a priority, time is allocated – it will get solved. Starting a gym membership after a decade-long hiatus on the other hand may be less of a priority.

In our relationships we seem to be undergoing a strange paradox. There might be the occasional ‘don’t have time’ reason to meet – something that regularly occurs in the repetitive blowouts of online dating – and these can be the same the long term friendships too. But now there are times when people seemingly do have time to meet up, only to not prioritise the person in front of them when they’re together. They’ve apparently got more important things to tend to – on their phone. They’ve finally made the time to meet, only for the actual meeting not to be a priority.

The best solution to this behaviour it would seem is sinply to tell them to put their phone away. Are any of us going to be brave enough?

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